1. Dean from Evvie Drake Starts Over by Linda Holmes
Evvie Drake Starts Over
Dean is an ex-professional baseball player with a bad case of “the yips.” He’s also funny, charming, and remarkably stable for someone whose whole future has recently been upended. I adored just about everything about this book, but Dean’s patience with the titular character, his banter, and his resolve to face his demons on his own—rather than piling them on Evvie—earned him a spot near the top of my all-time favorite fictional love interests.
2. Carlos from The Proposal by Jasmine Guillory
First things first, Carlos rescues The Proposal’s Nikole Paterson from a very terrible and equally public proposal gone wrong, so I was pretty sold on him from the very first chapter. But beyond that, I fell in love with his devoted, loving relationship with his family—and the fact that, throughout the book, he is constantly providing Nik with food. I swooned and also drooled.
3. Sebastian from Bringing Down the Duke by Evie Dunmore
Bringing Down the Duke
I don’t know why I love an uptight, stuffy British gentleman, but I really, really do. Sebastian is sort of a Mr. Darcy 2.0: rich, elitist, cold. Which makes it all the sweeter when Isabelle gets through that icy exterior to the warm goodness inside him. As soon as I finished this one, I wanted to start over for more time with the misunderstood Duke of Montgomery.
4. Khai from The Bride Test by Helen Hoang
The Bride Test
Oh, Khai, sweet Khai. Like with the Sebastians and Darcys of the world, Khai is deeply misunderstood—even by himself. Khai is autistic, and worried that the ways in which he processes his emotions make him incapable of having a loving romantic relationship. Enter Esme, a sweet and patient girl from Ho Chi Minh City determined to break down Khai’s barriers. I adored being in his head just as much as I loved seeing him through Esme’s eyes. Sweet, kind, rational, and generous, Khai will forever be one of my favorite book boyfriends.
5. Drew from Waiting for Tom Hanks by Kerry Winfrey
Waiting for Tom Hanks
This is sort of a two-for-one situation, because while Drew is winning over heroine Annie’s heart, there’s also another man in her life he has to measure up to: Mr. Tom Hanks. Drew is funny, charming, and deeply likable. As I was reading, he struck me as a Chris Pratt/John Krasinski amalgam. He’s the boy-next-door-turned-movie-star, and for me, he struck the perfect balance of snarky flirt and down-to-earth sweetheart.
6. Jack from One Day In December by Josie Silver
One Day in December
While I would argue that Jack isn’t necessarily the true star of this book, I still absolutely adored him. One thing I love in love stories is when we get to see characters get a little bit messy. It can be frustrating to watch a lead be callous or selfish or cruel, but frankly, I loved that this book lets us—and its heroine—see Jack at his worst. It might not be pretty, but seeing each other’s weaknesses is a necessary part of any love story, and like the lead character Laurie, I found I could love Jack all the more for his failures.
7. Connell from Normal People by Sally Rooney
This might be a controversial pick, given that Connell spends the first chunk of the book ignoring Marianne in public, but being inside Connell’s head—seeing his fears, his insecurities, his desperate desire to fit in—made me feel so tender toward him. As he and Marianne grow into themselves and their relationship changes, my heart ached for them and their complex love story.
8. The Dragon from Uprooted by Naomi Novik
No, he’s not a literal dragon. But he is a wizard, so not far off. My love for love stories extends beyond contemporary and historical romance to romantic fantasy, and this is one of my absolute favorites. The Dragon is something akin to the beast: a thorny, angry, complicated man who’s been alone for entirely too long. Watching his walls slowly but surely fall as his respect for his new assistant (slash captive?) Agnieszka grows was blissfully satisfying.
9. Jack from Can You Keep A Secret? by Sophia Kinsella
Can You Keep a Secret?
Another Jack! It’s got to be one of the best rom-com lead names out there. I love all of Sophie Kinsella’s leads, Jack particularly stands out for his independence, sense of humor, and charm. I love a hero who can playfully tease a heroine without crossing the line into rude or cruel, and Jack fits the bill. If you’re looking for someone to pull you into a world of delightful, fizzy escapism, Jack is the perfect man for the job.
10. Khalid from Ayesha At Last by Uzma Jalaluddin
Ayesha At Last
Building on one of the running themes here, Ayesha at Last is in many ways a play on Pride & Prejudice, and thusly its male lead, Khalid, is a bit of a Mr. Darcy. (Apparently I really can’t get enough of this kind of character.) Ayesha thinks Khalid is judgmental. Khalid thinks Ayesha is unserious, especially about her faith. Both of them are making big assumptions about the other, which is the recipe for a gorgeously sweet, slow-burn love story. I loved Khalid for his self-assuredness, his commitment to his beliefs, and ultimately, his humility.
Emily Henry knows a thing or two about writing sexy men, considering Augustus—the male star of her new book, Beach Read—is incredibly attractive. He’s a writer, he’s gorgeous, he’s smart, he’s troubled, he’s funny, he’s… a dream.
So, she’s the perfect person to list her top 10 book boyfriends of all time. Check out the list below, then check out the books—we promise you’ll swoon, too.
Featured image: @criene via Twenty20